By Troy Cofie
After 23 days of Kevin McCarthy being ousted as the Speaker of the House, we finally have a Speaker named Mike Johnson, a Republican representative from Louisiana.
A relatively unknown figure in the public eyes, Johnson has been noted for his support of overturning the 2020 election and restrictions on LGBTQ+ topics in institutions that receive federal funding. The speaker is at complete odds with some moderate Republicans and most Democrats’ beliefs on those issues and these stark differences between the many factions in Congress are making it difficult for our government to function.
Before McCarthy was voted out of his speakership position, the government almost shut down because of budget disagreements between far-right Republicans affiliated with the Freedom Caucus and Kevin McCarthy. The far-right Republicans were making demands that should be implemented in the budget bill that wouldn’t even get passed with the Senate-controlled Democrats. House Democrats simply watched the internal turmoil of the Republican party. Teetering a few hours away from a government shutdown, McCarthy, the Democrats and moderate Republicans were able to pass the budget bill.
Republican Matt Gaetz from Florida pushed a resolution to remove McCarthy as Speaker for not including all of the demands of the Freedom Caucus. Eight Republicans and over 200 Democrats voted to oust McCarthy as Speaker.
Afterward, the House Republicans went through four nominations with 12 Republicans vying for the Speakership position. The first to win was Steve Scalise from Louisiana but he withdrew on Oct. 12 after not receiving enough votes.
The second nomination was Jim Jordan from Ohio who even had support from the former president, Donald Trump. Jim Jordan ran three times in a row but lost every time with more Republicans not voting for him each time.
The third nomination was Tom Emmer from Minnesota who ran but faced stiff opposition from far-right politicians, causing him to drop out of the race.
Finally, Johnson was able to win the fourth nomination and become the Speaker of the House.
Pettiness and quarrels over identity are driving current House debates. Instead of focusing on issues that need to be addressed, many far-right politicians have no interest in passing any significant legislation. Many of the House Democrats are allowing the Republicans to engage in self-destructive behavior while moderate Republicans simply want to govern. Political analysts suspect Gaetz will use his infamy in the House to run for governor of Florida in 2026.
American politics has taken a problematic turn these past few years, with each year becoming more dysfunctional, especially with the difficulty of self-serving politicians not working with others. Many countries are observing what is happening in the U.S., questioning their relationship with our country and whether we can be reliable during these divisive times.
Especially now with global tensions at a new high with the Israel-Hamas war and the continued invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. needs to act as fast as possible. The aid that Ukraine needs to continue defending itself is now being stalled by Mike Johnson to score “political points'” against the Democrats for not voting for his standalone bill to aid in Israel’s defense funding, while simultaneously cutting funding for the IRS in the same bill. It's a nonstarter for the Democrats in the House and the Senate, causing more headaches for everyone involved.
All of us don’t have to agree on every policy matter or ideological query. However, dialogue and tolerance for one another are important values for a functioning democracy and government. Without this, as we can see, legislation can erupt into a toxic environment, promoting petty squabbles and vitriol attacks instead of shrewd negotiations and lawmaking. Bills are purposely made where they won’t be passed or will be stalled for politicians to score “points” against each other. In other words, politics is seen as a game instead of a duty that is upheld. Some politicians are taking certain actions that would only benefit themselves instead of their constituents.
In October, Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania stated on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” that “America is not sending their best and brightest to represent them in Congress.” Whether you like Fetterman or not, he brings an important message to all of us: voting matters. Who we vote into office is crucial for the gears of government to keep rolling. Even if a representative represents a district, they still can affect the country with their choices. Voting matters if we want problems to be solved in our country because if we don’t, unqualified people will keep being in power and dictate our lives.